The diversity of super bowl advertisements
Superbowl advertisements: National vs. international audiences
Despite the fact that two urban teams were playing in the 2013 Superbowl, the two most talked-about advertisements featured scenes of classic, American rural life. “God made a farmer” was an advertisement crafted for Dodge RAM trucks to celebrate farming culture and generate interest in the vehicles. The life of the American farmer has often been idealized. The advertisement featured artistic, still photographs of American family farmers with a voice-over of excerpts of a speech made to the Future Farmers of America by conservative broadcaster Paul Harvey (Godoy 2012). Only at the very end of the advertisement did its purpose become clear, when the large, Dodge truck was displayed in silence. The other farm-related advertisement was the Budweiser beer commercial that featured a farmer who had raised a Clydesdale foal for the famous Budweiser Company. At the end, the farmer was reunited with the foal when the grown horse was pulling the famous beer wagons during a parade in the ‘big city.’
These advertisements were subtle and encouraged people to buy the products based upon image and atmosphere of the commercials, rather than upon a ‘hard sell.’ Consumers are becoming increasingly savvy and are apt to simply ignore, skip, or edit out advertisements that are too obvious a grab for their attention, which is another reason why the Superbowl is such a desirable (and costly) spot for marketers. Superbowl advertisement slots can cost an excess of 4 million dollars, but companies find the brand awareness they generate to be well worth the astronomical price tag (Smith 2013). People actually watch and talk about the advertisements over the watercooler the next day at work, and the advertisements must have resonance.
The Dodge advertisement was particularly controversial, with many online commentators noting that the family farmers were becoming a thing of the past, and that many of the people who bought the gas guzzling American trucks did not really need them for work around the farm. “As Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Brandon McCarthy cheekily tweeted, ‘that convinced me, I’m buying a farmer first thing tomorrow'” (Godoy 2013). The Budweiser advertisement similarly evoked a sense of an unbroken connection between famers, animals, and the land.
Football is an American game, and it is difficult to imagine either of these farm-based advertisements having cultural resonance outside of American. Some of the more humorous advertisements might generate more interest internationally, such as the Taco Bell commercial which showed elderly people sneaking out for a wild party with the fast food Mexican staple (Judkis, 2013, 5 best). The desire to defy age is a common impulse. In Western Europe and Canada, the idea of older people wishing to challenge generational stereotypes would be persuasive, although in cultures where age is valued such as East Asia, this advertisement might not be comprehensible. Similarly, in what was widely regarded as one of the worst advertisements, a commercial for Doritos showed a child getting her father and her father’s friends to dress up as princesses by offering them Doritos (Judkis, 2013, 5 worst). This shows an inversion of typical parent-child responsibilities that would not be persuasive in an Asian culture which demands a respectful relationship between older and younger people.
The advertisements most likely to resonate with an international audience are the ones which are not dependent upon words or subtle relationships at all, like the South Korean pop star Psy’s advertisement for pistachios. Psy’s video “Gangnam Style” became a YouTube sensation, spawning 1.1 billion hits and a dance craze (Horowitz 2013). Rather than suggest a particular lifestyle, the advertisement featured ‘the dance’ and Psy cavorting around human-sized pistachios. This creates an image of fun for what is a relatively basic healthy snack. The popularity of Psy’s music and video underlines what makes a good ‘international’ versus national advertisement: visual humor and musical accessibility. People around the world did not need to know that Psy was making fun of nouveau riche South Koreans when he originally made the video to enjoy it and laugh. To understand that pistachios are bright, crackable, tasty nuts they merely have to watch him dance, not understand the words or even his cultural context.
Godoy, Maria. (2013). God made a farmer and the Superbowl made him a star. NPR.
Horowitz, Bruce. ‘Gangnam’ style Psy to star in Superbowl ad. USA Today. Retrieved:
Judkis, Maura. (2013). The 5 best Superbowl commercials of 2013. The Washington Post Retrieved:
Judkis, Maura. (2013). The 5 worst Superbowl commercials of 2013. The Washington Post Retrieved:
Smith, Paul. (2013). Superbowl ad price hits record $4 million. CNN. Retrieved:
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